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Antique Edwardian Crystal Decanter Tantalus with Tobacco & Games Chest

Antique Edwardian Crystal Decanter Tantalus with Tobacco & Games Chest

$1,250.00

For the well-appointed bar that has almost everything, we are thrilled to present this magnificent Antique Cut Crystal Decanter Tantalus with Tobacco and Games Chest. Acquired at market outside of London, this incredible set is an exceptional example of the refinement of the Edwardian era. 

An elegant addition for presenting your prized liquors, this antique tantalus was specifically built to keep the decanters locked in place, secure "to stop servants and younger sons from getting at the whiskey". While no longer accompanied by its original key, making the decanters slightly more accessible for serving your favorite spirits, this handsome chest resolutely captures the rarefied spirit of London's Victorian-era clubs for gentlemen.

This elegant tantalus is beautifully crafted of sturdy English oak with gleaming silverplate fittings. The exquisite crystal decanters are sure to impress with their gorgeous cane-pattern cutwork and shapely stoppers, original to the set. Standing in front of the mirrored back panel, light catching the sparkling crystal decanters will richly reflect the warm hues or crystal clear tones of the spirits stored inside. 

Directly in front of the decanters is a box with a split-hinge lid that opens from the center to reveal storage space for cigars and cigarettes. A tiny "secret" push button flush with the top surface of the frame of the tobacco chest releases the hidden game chest drawer, filled with original dice, cribbage board and spilikins as well as a deck of vintage playing cards. Only with the split-hinge lid fully opened are the decanters able to be removed.

Dressing the very top, the lid and the front, a trio of richly stained panels of heat-impressed embellishment in a natural yet geometric arts & crafts-era motif further imbue the wooden case with a refined, carved wood aesthetic. Perfect for storing and safe-keeping your favorite cognac, whisky or spirits, as well as all the supplies for a memorable game night, this rare and stately tantalus will take pride of place on any home bar.


Strictly one-of-a-kind and subject to prior sale. The tantalus overall measures 14"H x 13"W x 10.5"D and is in good antique condition. The crystal decanters are in very good antique condition and measure 9.5"H x 3.25".

Learn More About Tantalus Sets

The tantalus is named for Tantalus, one of the many sons of the Greek god Zeus. Tantalus was a bad boy, for when he was invited to dine with Zeus on Mount Olympus, he smuggled out some ambrosia which he took home and served at his own banquet. The gods were not pleased and in punishment for this offense, Tantalus was eventually made to stand in a pool of water beneath a tree heavy with fruit. If he attempted to reach for the fruit, the branches lifted high above him. If he attempted to drink the water, it receded away from him before he could take a sip. Thus, though surrounded by plenty, he was left both hungry and thirsty. The punishment of Tantalus is the origin of the word "tantalize".

The ingenious device known as the tantalus was not introduced in England until the last half of the nineteenth century. The basic concept of the design is a framework into which can be locked one or more decanters.Typically the design of the tantalus is open so the decanters can be easily seen and admired, but they can not be removed unless unlocked by the keeper of the key.

There is a popular story that the tantalus was designed to prevent one’s butler from sampling the best household liquor. But this anecdote does not hold up, as most self respecting butlers in the great aristocratic houses would never have considered pilfering from the master's liquor supply. And why create a device that would only protect a few decanters, while the bulk of the household liquor supply was kept in the cellars, to which the butler held the keys? The more likely scenario is that the tantalus was one of many novelty devices which were popular with the expanding and increasingly affluent middle class of the last half of the nineteenth century.

The tantalus is most known for securing decanters of liquor, but there were also versions created for perfumes, medicines and even tea.

*Tantalus history courtesy of historian Kathryn Kane of The Regency Redingote

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